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How to help expatriates settle into their new life abroad

May 14, 2017
Nicola Meier, of Inspired Coaching and Training Ltd in the UK, says it can take up to two years for an expat to feel fully at home after moving abroad. As most contracts only last for three years at the most, that doesn’t leave much time to enjoy the experience. Here are some suggestions as to how you can help them.

Nicola said that there are two key factors that can influence the way an expatriate family settles down: internal and external.

The External

These are things such as housing, employment, finding a job for the spouse, finding the right school for the children and building a social network. According to Rhiannon Davies, a communication and publishing consultant at, the external factors (mainly supported by the relocation agent and moving company) can be arranged quite quickly.

The Internal

This is mainly what the expatriates think about. How good are they at adapting to change? How resilient are they and how fast can they bounce back? How open minded are they to new relationships and cultures? It is about the mind-set and how much they can manage to see the opportunities, focus on the solutions and enjoy the transition. This takes longer to adjust to than purely external factors.

Within the first month the external factors are mostly settled. The expats have found their house and the kids are in school. Whereas it may take up to a year to feel at home for the first time and up to two years until the expat calls someone he knows a ‘friend’.

As keeping the settlement time short is so important, and to make the journey an enjoyable one, what can help expatriates better manage the internal factors?

Three tips to think about:

1. How would you feel? Ask yourself, what would help me? Being aware of the challenges yourself will already make a difference as to how you interact with your clients.

2. Identify what’s important.With every move the environment and the possibilities change and so do the priorities in an expat’s life. External factors such as work permits, language skills, the age of children, etc. change with every assignment and influence what is possible. Having to figure that out on your own takes time, so helping your clients to identify what is important can help them to take action in the right direction.

3. Focus on solutions instead of problems.  Imagine two canoes going down a very rough stream. One is focussing only on the safe spots he has to paddle to and gives all his power to get there. The other is focussing on all the dangerous spots trying to avoid them. Who do you think will master the challenge better? Right! The one who focusses the energy on the safe spots. The same is true for an expatriate. When moving abroad everything the expatriate does is new. There are many new threats, but also many new opportunities. The more you can help your clients to focus on the possibilities, on what they want and on solutions, the more they will see the good things happening in their life and the faster they will recognise the positives.

The more you can integrate the internal factors in your mobility support, the more you gain credibility and add outstanding value to your client. Helping them to make that stay abroad the best experience ever.

Nicola Meier

Nicola helps expatriates with her company Inspired Coaching and Training Ltd to thrive when change is happening and to make the experience abroad the best of their life. Expats gain resilience to master the challenges on the way and add value to the assigning company. Contact Nicola at

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